Widow of Gettysburg | Jocelyn Green

Prepare to be shocked by this next statement: I read a book about the Civil War and I loved it. It’s like me saying I love Del Taco. You know, like I’ve never mentioned that before to the internet.

Here’s why I liked it:
1. I really enjoyed the first book in the series Wedded to War.
2. Jocelyn Green bases her stories off of real people. I love that.
3. It deals with the Civil War.
4. There was mention of the Massachusetts 54th.

Widow of Gettysburg is a fantastic and wonderful second book of Jocelyn Green’s Heroines Behind the Lines series. A tale of sacrifice, love, family, war and strength all mixed together beautifully by Green’s writing. If you love historical fiction, you’ll love this one.

Once the book hit the start of the battle I couldn’t put it down. As much as I talk about history and the Civil War, I’ve never studied or read much about those who lived in Gettysburg. Maybe because my research never dealt with the battle at Gettysburg, but what a story that city holds. Oh man, what that must have been like! Green’s descriptions and storytelling brought to life how it was for those who lived there.

Plus there were a few things that I didn’t see coming AT ALL. About 35% in….wha???????????????????????? That is all folks. If you’ve read it, you have to tell me what you thought!

One thing I shouldn’t have done was read this before work. Stories of mamas losing their sons…there went my makeup.

I ended the book wanting to watch Glory again and felt better for reading the story of those who were just as brave as the soldiers who fought for freedom.

When a horrific battle rips through Gettysburg, the farm of Union widow Liberty Holloway is disfigured into a Confederate field hospital, bringing her face to face with unspeakable suffering–and a Rebel scout who awakens her long dormant heart.

While Liberty’s future crumbles as her home is destroyed, the past comes rushing back to Bella, a former slave and Liberty’s hired help, when she finds herself surrounded by Southern soldiers, one of whom knows the secret that would place Liberty in danger if revealed.

In the wake of shattered homes and bodies, Liberty and Bella struggle to pick up the pieces the battle has left behind. Will Liberty be defined by the tragedy in her life, or will she find a way to triumph over it?

Widow of Gettysburg is inspired by first-person accounts from women who lived in Gettysburg during the battle and its aftermath.


Read it folks!

4 Questions with Award-Winning Ron Bates

He’s a fellow Austinite, so that little piece of information should solidify that he’s a legit author. He also is author to a witty and hilarious tale of friendship that all kids need to read. As I mentioned in my review, How to Make Friends and Monsters, Bates uses “witty writing, humorous monologue, mischief and mayhem, that will leave you laughing and understanding the true meaning of friendship!”

So of course I wanted to host him here! Not only do we get the regular 4 Questions, but a few bonus questions about Howard Boward, inspiration of characters and a love of monsters!

Ron Bates is a writer, journalist and humor columnist who has produced creative work for a variety of mediums. He began his career as a newspaper reporter, and his frequently funny takes on life caught the attention of Legacy Publishing, which hired him as a resident humor-columnist for their three regional magazines. As a freelance writer, Ron’s work include the children’s story Arnold Bought a Bug, and St. Mary’s and the Art of War, the true story of how Italian POW’s transformed in a tiny Texas church. Rob is the author of the Cranium Comics series Brawn, the inspirational play Flight 1615, and Underground Ink, a collection of humorous poems. As an award-winning copy-writer, Ron lives and works in Texas.


1. What is something about your life right now that you would have never imagined 5 years ago?
That anyone would want my autograph. I still feel like I should apologize whenever I sign a book, it’s this sense that I’ve somehow left a permanent blotch on an otherwise perfect page. Getting to do something like that is an honor and one of the most gratifying parts of the book-writing experience but it’s surreal. I guess it’s because authors aren’t accustomed to being onstage — the book is the star, we’re somewhere back behind the curtain. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful but I always half-expect people to say they’re joking and then pull the book away.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
The hard part is limiting it to just one thing. But, looking back, my biggest regret is the time I wasted. It’s not a matter of wishing I’d worked harder or longer, it’s more about wishing I’d seen the path earlier. Writing a book was always something I was going to do “someday.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that any day can be someday–it’s not some magical point in the future. In hindsight, there were an awful lot of some days I let slip away while I was waiting for some huge, life-changing moment.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
In college, I joined the speech team mainly because it was a good way to meet people and you got to travel to events around the country. We were at nationals one year in Kansas City and a group of us came up with a game we called “elevator Frisbee.” The name pretty much says it all — we divided and got into elevators facing each other and, when the doors opened on the next floor, we’d throw the Frisbee to someone waiting in the elevator on the other side. This continued all the way to the top floor. The object of the game was to time your throw perfectly so that, the second the elevator doors opened, a Frisbee would come whirling through them. It was stupid. But I remember laughing as hard as I have ever laughed at anything, and the looks on the faces of the hotel guests watching a Frisbee fly out of one elevator and into another was priceless. I don’t really think it was this ridiculous game that made me happy, it was that I’d found a group of really creative people who were just as warped and immature as I was and together we were “greater” than the sum of our parts. It was a special time.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
The world neither starts nor ends with you. That sounds so obvious but every generation seems to struggle with the concept. For some reason, there’s this point in our development where we believe we have to change things, and only we can do it because we have all the answers. That’s not the next generation, that’s every generation. The trouble is, we forget that others felt this way long before our arrival. There’s a reason things are as they are, a reason our predecessors set us on this course. That doesn’t mean it’s the right course but it does mean you don’t change everything just for the sake of change. You owe something to the next generation, just as the previous one owed something to you, so don’t throw away the past carelessly. You might be robbing those to come of something precious.

And now a few about How to Make Friends and Monsters!

5. Where did the idea develop? Are you a big Frankenstein fan?
I grew up a big fan of old monster movies. I’m not just talking about the “classic” monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman, I liked them all–Mothra, Gamera, the blob, the giant ants from “Them.” One of my favorite memories is staying up late on Friday nights and watching the cheesy midnight movies that always involved some nuclear mutation bent on destroying the planet. But just when you thought you knew everything about monster history, it changed. Sesame Street gave us Cookie Monster and Grover, Harry and the Hendersons gave us a lovable Bigfoot, and we met Sulley and Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. Suddenly, monsters, which had always been the scourge of mankind, could be friends.

In a lot of ways, the book is an examination of one question — what is a monster? Is it a monster because of the way it looks, because of where it came from, or because of its actions? At its heart, this is a story about a friendship between two kids, one of whom just happens to be a “monster.”

6. Were any of the characters inspired by real people?
Definitely. There are elements of people I know in all of them but they’re not exact copies. My brothers and my sister, for example, have all found instances in the book that happened to them while we were growing up. Those parts were when the story felt most “real” to me because they were real experiences. When I picture Winnie McKinney in my head, I know the face I’m thinking of and it belongs to a real-life person. Is Winnie her? The best answer I can give is “kind of.”

As for Howard, he looks at the world a lot like I do. I think he worries about the same things I worried about at his age, so I know I’m in there, part of the mix. Hopefully no one I grew up with will see themselves in the bullies in the story — but if they’d been on the other end of the wedgie back then, there’s a good chance they might.

7. What’s one of the main things you hope your young readers come away with after reading this?
Fitting in isn’t about becoming who you think the crowd wants you to be. It’s about being who you are and finding your place among people who wouldn’t have you any other way. You might make friends by pretending to be someone you’re not, but you’ll never really be one.

8. So is there anything on the horizon for Howard?
Indeed there is. I’m finishing the second book in the series right now and it takes place a little later in the year, during the winter months when the first snow has just fallen. We tend to think of snow as this pillowy layer of fluff that floats down from the sky but Howard sees it as something else entirely. Rolled into a ball, it becomes a cold, hard weapon and he is its unfortunate target. Naturally, with his passion for inventing things, you can count on him coming up with a very unusual snowman. It’s not that Howard means for it to be unusual, it’s just that his inventions never quite turn out as planned. But most of the main characters from the first book are back and Howard is still trying to survive the perilous halls of Dolley Madison Middle School, so hopefully it’ll be a fun read.

How friends & monsters_high res

Thank you so much Ron! Looking forward to following Howard’s mishaps and adventures!

And if you want to join in Howard’s journey through Jr. High, be sure to connect with Ron on Twitter or his website!

Ender’s Game | Orson Scott Card

This past March Out of Print had their annual March Madness for best titles and this year the genre was fantasy/sci-fi. I was a bit perturbed when, for some time, Ender’s Game was ahead of The Hobbit. Surely you jest internet. Who was voting in this??

But don’t worry, wisdom won out and The Hobbit made it to the Final Four (only to lose to Harry Potter). I was ready to have someone hold my earrings. So I took it upon myself to pick up a copy and see what the fuss was all about, since, I’m scared to admit, I’d never heard of Ender before. And if it put up a fight against my beloved Tolkien, then I needed to study the enemy.

If you’re like I was, here’s what the story is about:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Ender’s Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

My first thought after finishing this book was, why did the aliens have to be called Buggers? My second thought was that I didn’t expect that ending! I kept trying to think of ways it was going to end as I drew closer and closer to the finish, but I can honestly say I wouldn’t have called that one.

I thought, for me to like this, it would have required a much different crazy non-stop ending, but if anything, it made me enjoy the book more. I had some pretty high expectations (you win awards, you better wow me) and as lame as this is going to sound, I was hoping it would be terrible so my Hobbit love would have been justified. I know, issues folks.

So even though it was a bit different than I was expecting, I still enjoyed it. It leaves you with some life lessons and if you love sci-fi, I think you’ll enjoy this one. One more thought, I kinda felt bad for Ender. Anyone else feel me on that?

Oh and it’s a movie soon!! Check out the trailer:

Anomaly | Krista McGee

“I do not doubt the Scientist’s desire to protect us, and that they want to keep us from returning to the type of people who existed before the Nuclear War. But I sometimes wonder if they took away too much. If there is more. We are, after all, made from these people. We are not a new species. Their DNA runs through us, makes us who we are. They cannot have all been terrible.”


Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.
Decades before Thalli’s birth, the world was decimated by a nuclear war. But life continued deep underground, thanks to a handful of scientists known as The Ten. There they created genetically engineered human beings who are free of emotions in the hope that war won’t threaten the world again.

Thalli is an anomaly, born with the ability to feel emotions and a sense of curiosity she can barely contain. She has survived so far by hiding her differences. But then her secret is discovered when she’s overwhelmed by the emotion of an ancient piece of music.

The Ten quickly schedule her annihilation, but her childhood friend, Berk – a scientist being groomed by The Ten – convinces them to postpone her death and study her instead. While in the Scientists’ Pod, Thalli and Berk form a dangerous alliance, one strictly forbidden by the constant surveillance.

As her life ticks a way, she hears rumors of someone called the Designer – someone even more powerful than The Ten. What’s more, the parts of her that have always been an anomaly could in fact be part of a much larger plan. And the parts of her that she has always guarded could be the answer she’s been looking for all along.

Thalli must sort out what to believe and who to trust, before her time runs out.

One of my favorite reads is The Giver because it’s such a reminder of how beauty, feeling & natural wonder can so profoundly change a person. How it makes the heart alive and our hearts are empty without it.

That feeling, that truth, the way words can make your heart beat faster….that was one of my favorite things about Anomaly by Krista McGee.

The emotions stirred by music, love, natural beauty…it came alive through the pages as Thalli discovered, searched and came to figure out what life was truly about. I love Krista McGee’s writing, it’s so beautiful.

And for the love of kittens and crumb cakes, I did not expect that last chapter at all! Internet, it’s a series…a series!! Here I thought it was a stand alone novel, but nope. So not only did it switch things up at the end, I was also wondering just what the hey was going to happen next. I can’t handle this people. I can’t. Now I have to wait a whole year for it to continue. Boo!

While this was a step away from her normal genre, I’m so so so glad McGee decided to expand her horizons!!! There’s quite a few dystopian options out there, but I definitely recommend this one.

Any other new fans out there?? If you haven’t read this yet, then please go ahead and remedy that.

A Passion Redeemed | Julie Lessman

When people say they don’t like to read, I don’t get it. With series like The Daughters of Boston out there (by the ever awesome Julie Lessman), boring is the last thing to describe this series. A Passion Redeemed was no different.

After the first book, I quickly realized my summer reading list would immediately increase to include all of Lessman’s book. No jk-ing here, the only times I’ve stopped were because I had to finish ARCs (advanced reader copies) and book club. Other than that, I just keep downloading as fast as I can.

(This one won’t have as many spoilers as the first post, but it also includes more details than, say, the back of the cover. So please proceed with caution).


Let’s just start off by saying, that for most of the book I still wanted to punch Charity in the face. I wanted to shake her and demand to know why she kept trying to force things, scheme, LIE. I mean was lying her favorite past time?? So there I was about 2/3rds in thinking there was no way I’d ever like her.

But then, as Lessman so perfectly does, things started to happen, you could sense and see genuine change in Charity’s character and finally, I mean FINALLY, I liked her.

Side note: Rigan is a horrible human being. Although other words would be more accurate, I’ll keep it at that.

I loved the deeper themes that were portrayed beautifully. Forgiveness, grace, love, passion. It’s not easy to have deeper themes in fiction without seeming cheesy or forced (especially when matters of faith are involved), but Lessman does it in a way that’s perfect.

I seriously love the O’Connor family. Love them!

I also love how the characters are in each book and then lead to the next one. I have a few more books left with this family, so can’t wait to dive in!


For those of you who have read the series, do you like Mitch or Collin more? I know it’s hard, but I’m just curious! I’ll go first: I think my vote goes to Collin (but only slightly!!).

How to Make Friends and Monsters | Ron Bates

Friends of the internet. You must know one thing about this book: this kid is hilarious! A Jr. High student full of wit and comebacks…we would definitely have been friends.

If you’re looking for a book to pass along to your kids, check How to Make Friends and Monsters by Robert Bates!

With witty writing, humorous monologue, mischief and mayhem, creative illustrations and an enjoyable time, Bates’ tale will leave you laughing and understanding the true meaning of friendship!

So if you know anyone ages 9 and up, be sure to pass this along. they’ll come away with important life lessons and lots of laughs! It comes out a week from today (7/22)!

Any middle grader who’s ever been on the bottom rung of the popularity ladder or prefers a chemistry set over a football jersey will relate to the main character in author Ron Bates’ How to Make Friends and Monsters.

The book follows 7th grader and frequent wedgie victim Howard Boward. A bespectacled loner, with a mouth full of braces, Howard is often the target of a school prank. That is, until a lab mistake involving Wonder Putty helps him “make” a new friend.

What began as a blob becomes a big, hairy, jovial creature who Howard names Franklin Stein. They are instant buddies. For the first time, Howard doesn’t have to sit alone at the lunch table. The cool kids finally know his name.

Unfortunately, Howard soon learns that playing God has a price. When certain members of the UPs (über-popular crowd) hear about Howard’s secret experiment, they want him to make them a special friend, too.

But things quickly spiral when the true nature of each monster emerges. Howard must find a way to fix this disaster—even if it means going back to being friendless.


Enjoy the trailer below!

(I received an Advanced Reader Copy from DJC Communications in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!!)

The Hero’s Lot | Patrick W. Carr

Let.me.tell.you. This is not your regular let’s-keep-things-chill middle of a series type book. Good golly, it was anything but! If you haven’t read the first book, Cast of Stones, you need to start there. I think you’ll be skipping to B&N for Patrick W. Carr’s The Hero’s Lot after you do.

Friends, things kept coming up that had me saying “What?!” or “Oh dang son…oh dang!” or “What the fresh Hades just happened?” and often with Errol: “What are you doing???” There was action/drama that kept me wondering what I would find when I turned the next page. It wasn’t overwhelming though, I enjoyed all the plot twists. But let me tell you, things are rollin in the deep.


You know what else there is? Love. I really liked how Carr developed different relationships. That’s all I’ll I say about that. :) There’s some funny lines throughout too.

Not only was this a page turner, I thought the character development was well done. I’m going to miss these people when the series is over! Oaths taken. Lives changed…the list goes on. Plus I’m enjoying the deeper truths in this fantasy novel. One reason I love fiction, you can learn so much about life. Story – it’s powerful.

There’s still so much up in the air too! Here’s the thing, I know how I want this series to end, but I seriously have no idea if it will go my way. Eee…I must know. I MUST!

Do you know how angry I am that I have to wait until February 1, 2014 until the final release? Like I’ve said 887 times… The one downfall to getting hooked on a series early on is the dreaded wait time. But I guarantee come 2.1.14, I’ll be reading A Draw of Kings.

I’m such a fan of this series!!

(I need to admit something Internet. I almost started this review with a reference to Lord of the Rings and then stopped myself. Since I might have mentioned it at least 56 times last week, I’m putting myself on a sabbatical of LOTR references…you know people might think my life revolves around it or something. I should be able to last at least 2 days.)

Oh and here’s the official description:

When Sarin Valon, the corrupt secondus of the conclave, flees Erinon and the kingdom, Errol Stone believes his troubles have at last ended. But other forces bent on the destruction of the kingdom remain and conspire to accuse Errol and his friends of a conspiracy to usurp the throne.

In a bid to keep the three of them from the axe, Archbenefice Canon sends Martin and Luis to Errol’s home village, Callowford, to discover what makes him so important to the kingdom. But Errol is also accused of consorting with spirits. Convicted, his punishment is a journey to the enemy kingdom of Merakh, where he must find Sarin Valon, and kill him. To enforce their sentence, Errol is placed under a compulsion, and he is driven to accomplish his task or die resisting.

(I received a copy from Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. Thank you Bethany House!!)

A Passion Most Pure | Julie Lessman

“For years he’d possessed her dreams, but she’d been the master of those dreams. Now, he possessed her memory, and there was nothing she could do about it.”

Since this series has been out awhile this review is all about discussion, aka spoilers ahead, but like Here Burns My Candle, sometimes a girl needs to discuss!

So let’s begin!

Let’s all agree Charity needs to be smacked.

I was promised by the wonderful Julie Lessman herself that her character goes through some amazing changes in this series, but lordy did I want to scream when it came to her character. I’ll blame immaturity. And selfishness. So I haven’t given up on her yet. But y’all was I yelling when the scene with Mitch went down. I mean, we’re talking Bon Qui Qui “oh no she didn’t!” style.

I need a Mrs. Gerson in my life.

Dear Collin, You.were.dumb. I mean you came around, but buddy…for a significant part of the book I too wanted to give you a “wake up!” slap.

I would have revolted if Patrick really died. REVOLTED. I was thinking WHAT??? It’s way too early in the series for a traumatic death. This series is going to be the death of me.

I really liked Faith’s character. I felt the struggles of life, love and faith were real. I bet we would have been friends.

You guys, trust me when I say Lessman is a riveting storyteller and even though it took me a bit to get on board, I’m so glad I did. So glad! Grab A Passion Most Pure if you haven’t. Trust me on this one.

P.S. How many books deal with this family?? Because I need them all. Immediately.

Sixteen Brides | Stephanie Whitson

After reading Sixteen Brides, I see why there are so many fans of Stephanie Whitson. Such a delightful read!

Sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising “prime homesteads” in a “booming community.” Unbeknownst to them, the speculator’s true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival!

Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances–especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.


At first I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out a couple chapters in. There were several characters and having multiple voice/narrators in a story is no easy task. It can easily become a tangled mess of chaos (much like my fro of curls that rested on top of my head for my entire childhood), but Whitson shows how it can work. And well.

There was more to each woman than being a widow and I enjoyed how Whitson brought these facts and revelations to light in each page. These were strong women who suffered different things (whether they had amazing husbands, horrible ones, left behind families, etc.), yet were examples of how to make it through the valleys of life. I really enjoyed the mysteries and secrets that unfolded with each page turned.

So if you’re looking for some cowboys, wild west and good ol fashion romance, don’t miss out on this one.

Once Upon a Prince | Rachel Hauck

I recently read a contemporary fiction that I didn’t like. It seemed too much of a stretch for me and I kept thinking “yeah, right. That would never happen in real life, so no, I will not enjoy this novel.” It actually wasn’t that bad, but maybe I was in a bitter Betty type mood and set myself up for disappointment. So when I heard about Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck, I didn’t think I would read it. A modern day fairy tale??? William is already married and unless Harry wants to come to Austin and hang out with me, not interested. ;)

Thanks to the world of twitter (and my fellow book fan Rissi), I kept seeing great recommendations pop up about this one, so I decided to give it a shot. Because if we’re all honest, who doesn’t love a modern day fairy tale?


And that it was! What a lovely tale and charmer of a story. There’s something to European royalty that I’ll always be curious about. And the accents. That’s enough to watch a movie/read a book about them.

It’s not all cheesy either (like the 18 million sequels to The Prince and Me. Why did no one tell them to stop after the first one? Why???) A few days later, I was thinking about the characters, wondering what they were up to. I promise I’m not lying. I actually had to remind myself they were fictional. How embarrassing. ;)

It’s liking watching one of your favorite rom coms with your girlfriends. All you need is some popcorn, chocolate (which I usually need at any occasion) and some drinks. Pop in the film and enjoy a sweet, romantic tale.

And since Prince Harry is still single (let’s be honest, he’s grown up to be quite the looker), I think I still have a chance at being a princess. I kid folks! I kid!

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